A North Korean speed skater who fell twice Tuesday is suspected of trying to trip his Japanese rival after falling flat on his face at the Winter Olympics.
As difficult as it might be to believe that an athlete from a country known for regular provocations, threats, and human rights atrocities would cross the line, some observers suspect North Korean short-track speed skater Jong Kwang Bom intentionally tried to trip a Japanese skater, reports Yahoo Sports.
Jong, an athlete added at the last minute for diplomatic purposes, fell almost immediately after the start of the race, a showdown involving competitors from the four main countries involved in the geopolitical crisis on the Korean Peninsula — North and South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.
When he fell, the 16-year-old skater from North Korea appeared to extend his hand and grab Japanese skater Keita Watanabe’s skate, a risky move that could have cost him his fingers. As he slid across the ice, the North Korean cheerleaders began cheering and waving their national flag.
North Korean speed skater falls, tries to TRIP Japanese opponent!? Isn’t that a quick way to lose a finger or three? pic.twitter.com/Y4e3raqIn4
— Michael King (@mhking) February 21, 2018
The race was restarted, but Jong fell a second time, pushing Watanabe and tripping American speed skater Thomas Insuk Hong. Jong, who refused to talk to reporters after the race, finished in fourth place and was ultimately disqualified.
I’m no short track speed skating expert…..but, how was the skater from North Korea not disqualified when he reached out & tried to trip the other guy after he fell? The officials allowed the race to restart then he tried to take everyone out. #Olympics #USA pic.twitter.com/XBj4r7oLTn
— Aaron Beal (@Coach_Beal) February 21, 2018
A number of observers believed Jong purposefully assaulted his competitors. Others, however, argue that the North Korean skater simply lacks talent.
The Japanese skater brushed off the incident as “unintentional,” arguing that the North Korean athlete probably did not have any nefarious intentions. “His hand happened to be by my skate as he fell down,” the Japanese athlete explained. The American skater was also noticeably diplomatic in his response.
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“It is really hard to judge what’s the intention. I don’t know if he tried to grab the skates or if he is just trying to hold onto something like a reflex — there are so many hands all over in our sport. That was a reflex thing more than trying to trip over someone else,” Jonathan Guilmette, the Japanese skater’s coach, told reporters.
It is difficult to know exactly what happened out on the ice. North Korea has surprisingly been very well behaved at the Olympics, but this incident may tarnish its preferred image — a peaceful nuclear state rather than a murderous regime.
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